Part 3: Five challenges on the journey to mastering travel inspiration
Challenge 3 – Map your desired positioning on the Inspiration Footprint Matrix:
If the Bow Tie fans out from the centre knot represents initial travel commitment, then by definition the inspiration space on the left must be much larger than the booking space.
Obviously not larger in terms of revenue, but larger when looking at time spent and number of sites visited. Therefore it is imperative to look at inspiration in segments rather than as one monolithic strategy. With the possible exception of Google, a strategy based upon the later risks being bland and uninspiring by trying to be too much, too soon, for too many.
With this in mind I have developed a matrix based upon what I am seeing as the two most important factors in understanding the existing players in this space. Spontaneity is important because it is fundamental to understanding how people interact with the site and what action constitutes the end of a successful transaction with that site.
Distance from home is also important, although probably slightly less significant than spontaneity.
No matter how open minded I am in my search for inspiration, if I have moved beyond being passively influenced by billboards and the non travel media and am ready to engage with travel related websites, then I almost certainly have some pre-conceived idea of approximate length of vacation and maybe the continent that I am considering.
It is rare that I would be considering whether my next holiday in three months time will be either three days in Barcelona or three weeks in Brisbane (one hour flight versus 24 hours on a plane) – good luck to the website that goes chasing that type of individual!
Trying to inspire every consumer from day one risks not moving very far from the transactional sites that exist today. Better to do niche properly and then build on it, rather than fail by attempting to boil the ocean. Even Facebook started as a niche product.
In addition to the axes I have chosen, further segmentation may apply, but I am skeptical that is it possible to ignore these axes entirely. Overlaying something like Expedia for Gay Travelers, or American Airlines Black Altas is definitely worth investigating, but even people within these segments still need to be understood in terms of spontaneity and preferred distance for each individual leisure trip being considered.
I am sure there will be disagreement over where I have placed some of the existing travel inspiration sites I am watching, but what would be an even more valuable discussion would be on whether the axes I have chosen are the best way to understand the market. How would you have done it differently?
There are some like TripAdvisor and the major OTA’s that could easily span multiple boxes in the matrix with their large footprint, but I’ve tried to keep it as clear as possible by focusing on the parts of their business most aimed at inspiring the undecided masses.
I don’t intend to discuss every logo on the above matrix, but will explain a few key ones. Atrapalo in the top left corner are there purely for their business of selling discounted tickets to local events in a select number of cities (primarily in Spain) and not for their traditional travel agency business.
This position could just have easily been taken by Urban Daddy, Daily Candy or a host of other even smaller sites that do highly localized inspiration very well. But these are aimed at people living in the city (catching the local metro is about as short-haul as you get), so are not competing directly with sites looking at bringing leisure travelers in.
Following on from this, I was directed to the TravelMuse Inspiration Finder by Henry Harteveldt when he talked about emotions, experiences and more and how “that combines to create a very unique learning experience.”
TravelMuse is working with Travelocity to deliver this product and it is worth looking at how they are attempting to master Challenge 4.
Joobili on the other hand are more closely competing with WhatsOnWhen from Frommers, but what they lack in content they more than make up for with an understanding of what it really means to inspire someone using time sensitive festival and event content.
Ruba was acquired by Google recently, and given its relationship with the National Tour Association it is no surprise that the content is weighted towards promoting tour operators. Also interesting that 75% of users log in using their Facebook credentials, although this site does have a good reputation for social integration in general.
The final two I will clarify are Kayak and Tripadvisor as both are there for a small subset of their business. Kayak has a great tool called Fare Alerts where they push flights via email that match your pre-set criteria such a departure airport and maximum price. This could be a great lead-in to a really inspirational product, but to date the potential has not been realized.
TripAdvisor forums contain a lot of dialogue amongst a strong community of travelers looking for tips, ideas and questions answered.
And the most interesting thing about TripAdvisor is that of all the sites listed in the matrix, they are the closest to a decent starting point for Challenge 4 tomorrow, at least when it comes to turning hotel inspiration into purchase.
Martin Collings is a contributing Node to Tnooz and is currently employed as Vice President, Innovation Management & Commercialization at MasterCard Labs, based in Sydney. In this position he manages various mobile payments initiatives with his role covering the region of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Prior to MasterCard, Martin Collings spent six years with Amadeus IT Group, based in both Madrid and Chicago in a variety of airline roles, most recently as head of airline e-commerce sales for the Americas.
During his time at Amadeus he also wrote the Shearwater Blog covering various topics of interest for airline selling via direct channels. The views of Martin Collings are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of MasterCard.